Saw: The Game Review

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Review
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Saw: The Game Review

Saw is an appalling game based on an equally appalling series of horror films. While the first film was fairly decent, the following five sequels (with a seventh and final film due out in October) got progressively worse. The series concerns the activities of the villainous Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), a man who catches people who are doing wrong and places them in ‘traps’ designed to cause as much physical pain as possible and/ or a gruesome death (usually both). We’re told it’s not torture porn because it’s all in the spirit of morality, which is where this dubious game comes into play.

You are Detective Tapp, a minor character from the first film, who has been captured by Jigsaw and forced to partake in a series of gruelling games inside the world’s biggest asylum. After escaping from the original trap, Tapp undergoes a series of challenges where he has to save the lives of those his relentless pursuit of Jigsaw has hurt (and some other random nobodies). Can Tapp escape the sinister scheme? Can he catch Jigsaw? Can he save his own soul? If you’re familiar with the Saw series at all, then you know that the answer is no – he’s going to die horribly.

Where to begin with a game this terrible? It’s so bad, it’s hilarious. Jigsaw appears to have around a hundred people trapped in the asylum, half of whom have orders to kill Tapp, the other half have already died in background details. This ensures that you’re not just walking around looking at the bland textures and eye-gougingly awful environments because every now and again you get someone innocent to murder gruesomely.

The combat system is shockingly bad. You pick up a weapon, hold left trigger to aim and press X for a strong attack or A for a weak attack. Either way, the weapon’s swing is incredibly slow and seventy five percent likely to completely miss the person you’re aiming it. In fact, if the other person is unarmed, they’re probably going to win the fight because fist are the most powerful (and useable) weapon in the entire game. No wonder you get an achievement for killing one person with every kind of tool. Some people have bomb collars on that will attempt to set yours off unless you kill them or run far enough away from them. Most can be dealt with, hilariously, by simply bolting a door and left to ’splode on their own.

You can also be killed just by walking around. Fail to spot one of the many (emphasis on many) tripwires littering the asylum at ankle-height and you’ll find your head gets blown off by a shotgun. Open a door and fail to complete a quick-time event and you eat shotgun. Walk on glass and your health will drain away. Activate a checkpoint and the door will slam shut behind you, regardless of whether or not you were finished exploring. This is the pinnacle of badly-designed dross.

As for figuring out Jigsaw’s villainous scheme, the first room gives a pretty clear indication of how things are going to play out. The door is locked. The bathroom stalls have strange symbols written on them. If you look in the mirror – oh! Yep, there it is; a number combination. Accessed by turning 180 degrees. Pure gaming gold, right there.

It doesn’t get any better. You continuously come across the same puzzles over and over again, like using different sized gears to make a machine turn, playing ‘pipes’ with electricity and multiple escape points and attempting to make two pipe ends meet by joining up smaller pieces. These puzzles are used over and over again, mostly when you get locked in an area with a timed death sequence, and quickly become a hazard to your sanity.

As for freeing other people from their traps, it gets funnier. You have to solve a puzzle (one of the three mentioned above, a block-sliding grid or a tile-pairing challenge) to a time limit before the other person dies in yet another poorly animated cutscene. Because it’s a game and not a film, it’s tough to find empathy or even to be revolted by what’s happening onscreen. Most of the puzzles can be blundered through by repeating and memorising every time you fail, while others are so hilarious they can be guessed at and solved instantly. Quite how any of the puzzles are supposed to help Tapp overcome his obsession is a question not answered here.

Also, saving the people doesn’t seem to matter one jot. They’ll either be killed seconds later by a different trap or will run off and somehow escape. You’ll never see them again and there is no closure for their stories. It’s weird, too, how the game fails you if they die when the staple of the film series is the hyper-violent death scenes. Surely it should continue? After all, text on the loading screen reads, ‘every choice has a consequence’ and yet this linear, choice-free game is devoid of any resulting actions.

As for the traps – the real reason any Saw film fan would give this game a second glance – they are as decidedly nasty as you’d expect (again, it’s not nearly as shocking as they would be in a movie.) As an example, one sees a man bent backwards, one has a man trapped in a furnace while another features a spring-loaded casket filled with buzz saws. They capture the silliness of the films really well.

Just about the only positive thing that can be said about the game is that it manages to capture the film of the films quite well. The game is devoid of colour, relentless bleak and thoroughly unpleasant, just like the films. It’s also badly written, poorly acted and totally shit throughout, just like the films. The only saving grace is the vocal appearance of Tobin Bell, who takes a sinister delight in leading your by the hand through all of his puzzles, providing hints when you get too stuck. You know, just like the real Jigsaw.

In short, Saw is an awful game, worth playing if only to see how games aren’t supposed to be made. Technically incompetent, wholly unsatisfying and devoid of any semblance of fun, Saw is the kind of game that’s used as a last resort is torture camps. As in, ‘tell me what I want to know or I’ll make you play an hour of this!’ Probably a highly effective threat.

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